INTERVIEW: UK’s Europe Minister flies into Madrid for talks with Spain over issues affecting British expats post-Brexit

THE minister flew to Madrid to meet with expat campaign groups before holding a series of meetings with counterparts in the Spanish government to ‘iron out’ issues that have emerged under the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Minister for Europe held meetings with representatives from expat campaign groups including Bremain in Spain, Brexpats, British Benevolent Fund,  and EuroCitizens to hear the concerns of those living here.

Chief among the concerns raised were continued problems with driving licence exchanges, residency applications being rejected and an overall lack of consistency of bureaucratic process between regions and sometimes even local offices.

“These groups provide a vital communication channel with the expat communities in Spain and we are working very closely with them and with the Spanish authorities to work through the details,” she told the Olive Press.

“Citizens’ rights continue to be really really important to us,” said Morton, 54, who has been a Conservative MP for Aldridge-Brownhills constituency in the West Midlands since 2015 and joined Boris Johnson’s cabinet in February 2020. 

Morton acknowledged the “challenges of working though bureaucracy” faced by many expats in Spain and said she would be raising issues with the Spanish government.

“We are working towards a long-term solution for the exchange of driving licences,” she said adding that the deadline had already been extended to October 31 for those who had registered their intention before the December 30 cut off point last year.

“Whether it is an agreement, or an extension of that deadline, this is a live issue that causes concern and we are working on the details.”

For those who have had their residency applications rejected by the Spanish authorities and believed they met the criteria the minister said: “Our advice is always to seek proper legal advice.”

But she did say that she would be raising the issue during talks with Spain’s Secretary of State for EU Juan González-Barba and was working on “the possibility of a more flexible approach”.

Since Spain introduced the new residency card for Brits in Spain, the TIE, on July 6, 2020, 168,700 applications have been received according to data published at the beginning of September.

Spanish authorities report that 2,400 applications have so far been rejected.

The Olive Press about the British government response to complaints from those who had been told their residency applications were unsuccessful and were sent notices telling them to leave the country within 15 days.

She said the British government “does not agree with 15 day time limit and we will be bringing it up with the Spanish authorities”.

Lisa Burton, vice chair of Bremain in Spain who zoomed into the meeting from her home in Lanzarote described it as “very constructive”.

“The minister does seem to have an ear on the ground and is aware of all the problems we seem to be having,” Burton told The Olive Press. “And she seems committed to taking up these issues with the Spanish authorities but as to how much will come of it, well, we’ll see.”

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